The first reviews of José Padilha’s RoboCop remake have begun to trickle in and the majority of them (so far) are surprisingly positive. “I knew all along this would end up being decent!” – everyone, right now. A reimagining of Paul Verhoeven’s 1987 classic, the film centers on a fatally wounded cop who returns to the force as a powerful cyborg with submerged memories haunting him. I’ll update as soon as more reviews become available. But there’s also a very good chance I won’t.
Abbie Cornish, Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, Samuel L. Jackson, Jackie Earle Haley, Michael K. Williams, Jay Baruchel, Jennifer Ehle, and Marianne Jean-Baptiste also star. The film is scheduled to hit theaters February 14, 2014.
Indie Wire: So it’s as surprising for me as it is for you to report that the 2014 edition of “RoboCop,” helmed by Brazilian filmmaker Jose Padilha (“Elite Squad,” “Elite Squad: The Enemy Within”) is much, much better than it looks. It’s far from an absolute triumph, sure, but it’s significantly smarter and sharper than you’d give it credit for going in, with a (mostly) committed cast (mostly) having some fun with it, and an admirable commitment to character and ideas, over and above action and effects. It might not be worth mentioning in the same breath as Verhoeven’s original, but it’s at least in the same circulatory system. (B-)
Variety: Shifting the prime target of its satire from corporate greed to post-9/11 jingoism, this well-cast, smarter-than-expected remake repairs much of the damage done to the iron-fisted lawman’s reputation by meat-headed sequels and spinoffs; it’s a less playful enterprise than the original, but meets the era’s darker demands for action reboots with machine-tooled efficiency and a hint of soul.
The Hollywood Reporter: But what most viewers are looking to spend their aforementioned dollars on are the action scenes, and these too Padilha delivers dutifully, favoring the kinetic, handheld, hard-music driven style that made his Elite Squad films so compelling. Director of photography Lula Carvalho provides atmospheric assistance throughout, pushing the grading and lighting to extremes for the film’s many nocturnal episodes and night-vision sequences, while editing by Daniel Rezende and Peter McNulty has an incessant propulsive drive, although the transitions between scenes crash somewhat.
Digital Spy: Nobody should have an issue with the screenwriters for trying to remodel the script, but you can change the lyrics without losing the music or the structure. What made the 1987 movie incarnation of RoboCop so effective has been replaced by a cold wave of metallic mediocrity that showcases the advancement of effects while exposing its storytelling shortcomings. (2 out of 5 stars)
Den of Geek: While the remake is fated to live in the shadow of the original, RoboCop at least avoids the fate of becoming the studio-approved, toothless merchandising machine some might have feared. It’s a difficult film to score in terms of star ratings, but on balance, we can’t help but conclude that RoboCop’s achievements far outweigh its problems. Look beyond RoboCop’s manifold flaws, and you’ll find more than a shred of the 1987 film’s dark spirit still thriving inside it. (4 out of 5 stars)
Empire Online: Out goes the gut-busting violence, replaced by undercooked, over-CGed action scenes. And, more importantly, out goes the original’s central drive, which saw a machine slowly remember what it was like to be a man, replaced by an overwrought and melodramatic storyline in which Kinnaman’s bland Murphy tries to reintegrate himself with his wife (Abbie Cornish, crying so hard that she’s 90 per cent salt by the film’s end), and wondering what it truly means to be human. (2 out of 5 stars)
Total Film: And while this version does feel just a teensy bit toned down – with no melting men or machine-gun-mangled bodies in sight – Padilha at least captures the action with a frenetic, handheld ferocity reminiscent of his Elite Squad movies, as his streamlined enforcer guns his way through a series of intense set-piece shootouts. (4 out of 5 stars)
Geek Culture: Ultimately this film is a lot more intimate in scope than the original with all its spectacular bombast and overblown hyper violence. In many ways, both movies can be compared very aptly to how the RoboCop suits are. The original is clunky, heavy and packs a big wallop. The newer version is sleeker, more streamlined but faster, sharper and more to the point.(3.8 out of 5 stars)
Comic Book Movie: For what it is, Robocop 2014 is a perfectly serviceable, well paced, well acted action/drama that should hold your attention throughout. Unfortunately what it IS is another pointless remake. You could do worse on a rainy Friday night though – just don’t expect to remember a thing about it as you’re walking out of the theater. (3 out of 5 stars)
Flickering Myth: Sadly, this new version barely tweaks the original story, removes most of the action sequences, adds emotion in place of explosions and only scrapes by on the back of its stoical cast. While the cast hold up their end admirably, the updated script is filled with more holes than a non-robotic Detroit police officer.
HeyuGuys: One of the more compelling sub-plots is the relationship between RoboCop and his creator, Doctor Norton. It’s a Father-Son dynamic that is richly mined, and Oldman pulls out all the requisite acting chops in getting to the heart of the Frankenstein-like scientist. Offering an enjoyable, contemporary take on Verhoeven’s pioneering concept, Padilha’s RoboCop is a well though-out remake that can stand on its own two feet. (3 out of 5 stars)
Screen International: Certainly the more sophisticated special effects that drive this new version add plenty to the already smart concept and a strong cast take it all extremely seriously, but despite a few classy effects-driven moments it spirals to a rather flat and forgettable ending.
SFX: Bottom line: this RoboCop works, and it works really well. It’s not a classic like Paul Verhoeven’s 1987 original, but it is an excellent, intelligent SF drama. It’s one of the boldest Hollywood reboots we’ve seen yet, taking a film widely viewed as unremake-able and turning it into something very different, while honouring the source material at every turn. (4.5 out of 5 stars)
Movie Talk: He’s [Padilha] tinkered with the hero’s iconic suit and toned down Verhoeven’s ultra-violence considerably, but enough remains of the first film’s subversive wit to make this remake one of those rare entities: a blockbuster with brains.
The Popcorn Junkie: The Robocop remake is frustratingly mediocre. It’s not a complete disaster but rather an ample catastrophe. Director Jose Padilha’s reinvention is bland compared to filmmaker Paul Verhoeven’s 1987 film, but a comparison between these two films is a fool’s errand. Context is the name of the game when it comes to Robocop in 2014, and instead of having something decent to say about modern America, Padilla is obsessed with detonating scenery.